Thomas Rourke - Roscrea Through The Ages

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Thomas Rourke


My name is Ciarán Rourke. I am a born & bred Dublin man. In the past 2 years I started researching my family history. My father was born in Roscrea but had left at the age of 3 for life in Dublin, aged 73 now he has very limited memories of his birthplace. Only since I started my research it has brought back flashes of things. He always said he remembered his grandfather who lived in Chapel Lane lifting him up over the wall to see the train go by... that was aged 3. His last memory & the last time he was in Roscrea was for his communion in 1949. He was brought back dressed & pressed to see his Grandad. This was the last time he was in Roscrea.... Until now.

I'll start with my grandfather. My Grandfather was John Terence Rourke/O'Rourke (it changes from document to document) Born to John Terence Rourke & Sarah Brett. His sister was Katie Anne Rourke. (as seen in the 1911 census from Chapel Lane. She left Roscrea in the 1930's to go work in Dublin as a servant. My Grandad ran away from home aged 16 & went up to his older sister for a while. He met my Grandmother in Dublin & over a period of time they got married in Dublin & came back to Roscrea & had their 1st child, My father James Thomas Rourke. (He was told the Thomas was given because it was a prominent name it the Rourke family). My Dad was the only one of his siblings that was born in Roscrea. They young couple moved back to Dublin & my Grandad joined the Irish Army in Gormanstown in Meath. He didnt last long in the Irish army, with the break out of WW2 Basically The British army paid you the Irish army didnt? with a young family now to provide for....
He went & fought in WW2 serving in Burma, Lybia, Egypt & latterly in Omagh.
A big hurling fan was my grandfather, hurled as a boy for Roscrea. My father has early memories of going to Croke Park in the late 1940's to watch Tipp with his dad... And his favorite thing about the day out.... "Ice Cream".
John became an engineer in the army & joined the "REMY" (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) fixing machinery during the war. After the war was over John returned to Dublin & tried to seek employment as an engineer. One famous or infamous story was that he tried out for an engineering position in Dublin with 5 other candidates, even though he was the only one of the 6 candidates that could actually read the drawings & blueprints required for the position they would not give him employment due to his service in the British army. John & my grandmother did not work out after the war... I think today we would call it "post traumatic stress", But back then nobody knew anything about it. I was told my grandfather witnessed some harrowing thing during his service which undoubtedly left him scarred.
He returned to London where he worked for the railway for years as a ticket collector. Eventually after retirement in his old age he came back to Ireland & moved back in with who....??? His sister Katie Anne In Mounthrath in Laois. The very 1st. person who he left home to live with was the very last person who he went to live with. Life is amazing. And it is in Mounthrath he is buried.

My great grandfather, also John Terence Rourke was born to Patrick Rourke & Anne Quinlan 29 Limerick Street Roscrea in 1883. Now Patrick Died 1886 of heart failure. It is fair to say that that family hit hard times after their father died. John had 6 siblings as far as I am aware of. Dora (who later became Dora Dignam) Pake, Katie, William, George, & Anne. When I went to Roscrea the other day I found Dora's grave right in the ground of St Cronans just under the arch to the right as you go in buried with her daughter "Annie (Nan) Browne & beside her brother Pake O'Rourke of Alleys Lane. My Great Grandfather John is there too but I have not found him as yet. Dora had a child Anne in the Roscrea workhouse in April 1908, Horrible times. In the 1911 census Dora ends up married to a John Dignam & living in 5 Chapel Lane with 3 of John Dignams kids, John, Mary & Patrick (obviously from a previous marriage) John Dignams mother Jane Dignam, Dora & her 2 kids Anne & John Rourke... Aswell as Dora's mother Anne Rourke, her brother (my gr. Grandfather John) John, his wife Sarah Brett & their child Katie Anne!!! 12 all packed into a 2 bed roomed bungalow in 5 Chapel Lane!!! Madness, But that was the times I suppose.
Back To my great Grandfather John. Aged 17 he went to Clonmel in 1900 & joined the British Army. With his father dead in 1886 John was now the man of the house & bread winner. I have his enlistment medical for the British army in Clonmel. Age 17, height 5Ft. 6" weight 110lbs. Only a baby. He was stationed in Woking in Surrey in a Barracks with all Irish mainly from Waterford & Tipperary. When WW1 broke out he was sent like so many others. He ended up shot in the leg, it must have been a bad enough wound because he spent the rest of his life on a cane with a limp because of it. Im so glad my father has that memory of his grandfather lifting him over the wall to see the train in Chapel Lane. Makes me happy. He lived out the rest of his days in Roscrea, I will find his grave.

As I said My great Grandfather was born to Patrick Rourke & Anne Quinlan. Well my Great Great Grandfather Patrick Rourke was born to Patrick Rourke & Dora Boland & they got married in St. Cronans in 1849. That is as far as my research has taken me... So Far!

My grandfather always told my Dad that the Rourke/O'Rourke family originated in Benamore & was adamant about it. To the degree my father told me he had a document that proved it. Now what the document was we will never know??? The origional Rourke family home in Benamore is up for sale through a lady called Josie Heenan... who inherited it from her mother of the same name who was a sister or related to Cornelious Rourke... Or so the story goes, Dont quote me on that one.

Since a post on Roscrea through the ages about a Cornelious Rourke from Roscrea I have been in contact with a lovely person in Australia believed to be a distant relative who has helped me search, as well as the O'Rourke family who own O'Rourke pub in Roscrea also believed to be distant relative's. A lovely bunch of people & it felt such a privilege to be in Roscrea where my roots & my heart lay. It was very emotional for me having never been there before & was delighted that my father came with me... 1st time since his communion! Cannot wait to back, I only live up the road. Even writing this it makes me emotional, rushing all my thoughts & memories.... Roscrea is in my heart forever.

If anybody know's of anything related to any of this please do not hesitate to post. Thank you for reading.

Ciarán Rourke.

The photos are:

John Terence Rourke the younger getting married 1940..

 Baptismal Certificate of My father James Rourke from St Cronans
: Baptismal Certificate of My Grandad John/Terence Rourke from St Cronans.

My father James Thomas (Jimmy) O Rourke on his first trip to Roscrea in 49 years on 5th april 2015

: My Grandads war medals behind a hand written letter to my brother.

In North Africa Soldiers celebrating the end of the war. My Grandad is the man on the Harmonica.

Soldiers celebrating the end of the war. My Grandad is middle left with the same hat as last photo.

: In St. Cronans Church ground My Great Grandfather's sister Dora Dignam (formally Dora Rourke). With Daughter Annie (Nan) Browne.

My Great Grandfathers brother Pake Rourke, Beside Dora's Grave.

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